Sunday, December 09, 2007

Can I consolidate health professions loans?

Yes, With a Direct Consolidation Loan, borrowers can include certain health profession loans sponsored through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with other Federal education loans in their Direct Consolidation Loan. Borrowers must include at least one Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan in the Direct Consolidation Loan.

Eligible Health Professions Loans

Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL)
Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL)
Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS)
Nursing Student Loans (NSL)

Direct Consolidation Loans offer many advantages to borrowers of health professions loans. These include:

a longer repayment period;
a lower monthly payment; AND
a single monthly payment

When deciding to consolidate a health professions loans, consider the following advantages:

Borrowers who have defaulted on a HEAL may include the collection costs and late fees in a Direct Consolidation Loan. These fees may not be included in HEAL Refinancing.

Under the Direct Consolidation Loan Program, HEAL borrowers may repay under the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan for the life of the loan.

HEAL lenders are only required to offer an ICR Plan for the first five years. To qualify for an in-school deferment, Direct Consolidation Loan borrowers must be attending school at least half-time. HPSL, HEAL, and LDS borrowers are required to attend school full time to be eligible for an in-school deferment.

Issues to Consider
Before applying for a Direct Consolidation Loan, consider the following points:

HEAL loans have fixed or variable rate that are tied to the average 91-day Treasury bill rate plus 3 percentage points. There is no maximum interest rate for variable rate HEAL loans. In contrast, the interest rate for a Direct Consolidation Loan is based on the weighted average of the interest rates on loans being consolidated, rounded to the nearest higher one-eighth of one percent. It is a fixed rate and will not exceed 8.25 percent.
The interest on some health professions loans is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This interest subsidy is lost when these loans are included in a Direct Consolidation Loan.
Interest does not accrue during deferment for HPSL, LDS, and NSL borrowers. Interest does accrue during deferment on the portion of Direct Consolidation Loans that include health professions loans.
Borrowers who consolidate Health Professions Loans do not retain the deferment benefits that apply to those loans. However, they gain the deferment benefits that apply to Direct Consolidation Loans. For example, a borrower may be eligible for additional deferments if they have an outstanding balance on a FFEL made before July 1, 1993, when they obtain their first Direct Loan.